Bhubaneswar: For the first time as an unique initiative the Wildlife Wing of Forest Department with support of Odisha Tourism has started training & capacity building of Managers of different Ecotourism destinations of State on Covid Management. Odisha is having more than 40 Ecotourism Destinations in different regions of State i.e Beach resorts, Nature Camps at Hill Stations, Rivers, Valleys, important tribal belts, Forest & Wildlife areas etc. More than 300 rooms are present in different locations and every location represents a separate cultural entity. The Ecotourism model of Odisha has received applauds from different corners of India & abroad being the only State having Community concept of Ecotourism. More than 600 community members are managing these properties and hospitality experts are engaged for regular training & monitoring. Around 60% community members are rural women. Presently 7 Ecotour Properties in Districts like Nuapada, Koraput, Sundargarh etc are under construction.
Now due to Covid-19 pandemic since March all Ecotour properties have been kept closed and now Odisha Ecotourism has started training of Managers & community members on different aspects of COVID management before opening. As such since launching of Odisha Ecotourism in 2016, booking is through online portal ecotourodisha.com, cash booking or on-spot booking is very minimal restricted to off- season only as during winters most of the destinations remain booked in advance. The entry tickets are also booked online by night stay visitors to these properties hence no physical contact or paperwork for booking was ever needed.This was made to make visit smooth and hassle free.
Last year performance of Odisha Ecotourism was overwhelming in comparison to previous years. The State saw a leap in number of Eco-tourists and also revenue. More than 30,000 visitors have made night stay in these properties and the State has received revenue of Rs. 6.6 Crore though after December 2019 there was gradual slowdown of tourists to State. Similipal witnessed more than 5000 night stay visitors and inspite of being new, Barehipani Nature Camp overlooking the beautiful Barehipani Waterfall witnessed healthy flow of quality tourists.Satkosia Sands Resort at Badmul maintained its towering performance as previous years and recorded more than 4000 tourists with revenue of 1Crore.10 Lakhs. During 2018-19 the number of tourists was 20000 and revenue was 5.6 Crore.
PCCF (Wildlife), Shri H.S Upadhyay,IFS : We are trying to benchmark our COVID management performance in the country. We have started training of Managers & Community members for handling the pandemic situation successfully. We want all our community members to be well equipped on COVID protocols during & post COVID, and our Ecotourism properties will perform effectively and perfectly as it has been till date. We are following multidimensional approach, our primary objective is to restrict further transmission of COVID-19 when our Nature Camps open and on the other way there will be excellent service to visitors visiting our destinations. Training community members on different aspects of sanitization and hygiene will also go a long way for managing the Nature Camps properly. We are also under process of equipping all Nature Camps with sanitization equipments and safeguards. This year we are also prepared for starting many new Ecotourism initiatives in State.
Director Tourism, Shri.Sachin Ramchandra Jadhav, IAS: “As Odisha’s tourism and hospitality sector opens up, Community Managed Ecotourism camps will play a central role in our revival efforts, winning tourists’ confidence, hearts and minds. Travellers and tourists under this situation will surely prefer visiting areas amid nature. Along with sustainability, safety and security are our key mantras. To equip our 600 community members working across 40 Ecotourism properties in Odisha with awareness and key skills in prevention and risk mitigation against COVID-19, we are embarking on training programmes with experts associated with IITTM and IHM to conduct the programmes.
Our on-site training sessions, while familiarising them with protocols and best practices, will also conform to all preventive guidelines in COVID-19 prevention such as social distancing, usage of face masks and other protocols prescribed by Govt. of India.
In our mission to revive tourism and hospitality, we will ensure that Odisha is one of the safest destinations to explore.”